The Duke community gathered to witness the re-election of President Barack Obama in a celebratory fashion Tuesday night.
The Public Policy Majors Union organized a free, non-partisan watch party at the Sanford School of Public Policy where an array of members of the Duke community flocked to monitor the election results as they poured in Tuesday night. Attendees filled Sanford’s lobby, study nooks and lecture classrooms to watch coverage of the election. The watch party, coordinated by PPMU president Andrei Santalo—a senior—also provided free food and beer.
The turnout of over 300 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty, supplied the contagious enthusiasm that spread throughout the building with each new poll closing and state projection. As the results of each state’s presidential vote were announced, entire rooms erupted in cheers.
But several viewers, such as Khuwailah Beyah, a research associate at the Sanford School, said she did not trust the early projections.
“With 10 percent of the vote, how do you know?” Beyah asked. “They’re putting people on a roller coaster ride.”
Many students expressed a similar desire for more concrete numbers. Sophomore Dutch Waanders said he could not understand the network’s willingness to claim a candidate’s victory mere minutes after the closing of the polls.
Some thought the closeness of the race was a reflection of the indecision of America between the two candidates up until Election Day.
“I don’t know what the country wants,” said freshman Nick Sam, a Romney supporter. “I was worried yesterday, two days ago. Now I just don’t know what to think.”
Others turned to alternative sources of information besides the televised news programs. A group of juniors majoring in public policy and political science gathered on one of Sanford’s upper levels to huddle around a computer and peruse CNN’s data collection mechanisms, including an interactive map that calculated winners for various electoral combinations. Even when surrounded by numbers, maps and television screens, the group refused to claim certainty with any state.
“There’s no way we can find out who won anytime soon,” said junior Ethan Ruby at approximately 9:30 p.m. Freshman William Bobrinskoy, on the other hand, put his faith in the numbers even though they leaned against Romney, his preferred candidate. “After [the election in] 2000, no news station will project something that they’re not sure of,” he said.
Republicans were notably sparse in the crowd of students and faculty—scattered applause greeted Romney’s gains in contrast to overwhelming noise in response to Obama’s. Brobinskoy, an independent, followed the results in a classroom projecting Fox News, which was smaller and less populated than the rooms dominated by Democrats. He and several other Romney supporters, including Sam, noted the obvious disparity of representation between the two parties at the event.
“We would prefer CNN [to Fox],” Bobrinskoy said. “However, we couldn’t handle the Democratic presence. We came in [this room] because it was moderate.”
Despite the distinct Democratic zeal, uncertainty over the outcome continued to dictate the atmosphere up until the Ohio projection came from CNN. It gave Obama an additional 18 electoral votes, pushing his total over the 270 required for victory. Most attendees of the watch party were on their feet, cramming into the largest lecture classroom where a screen flashed the word “Re-Elected.” Chants of “four more years” soon filled the crowded lecture hall.
When CNN announced that Romney was not ready to concede, many spectators booed loudly, some even flashing obscene gestures at the projection screen. The mockery quickly turned back to celebration, however, as Nevada’s electoral votes were announced in favor of Obama, increasing his projected margin of victory over Romney.
Although the event was scheduled to conclude at 11:30 p.m., dozens of students remained in the lecture hall for an hour after the announcement of Obama’s win to celebrate with their friends beneath the projection screens.